Danklefs has a lot of skills when it comes to customizing, but he’s known best for adding eye-catching colorways onto different silhouettes. The San Antonio native has been restoring shoes since 1996 when he was only 11 years old and has built a strong following ever since. He continues to recreate shoes for people all across the world, as well as for celebrities of all types, such as LeBron James, Wale, Twista and more.
We got a chance to chop it up with Danklefs to find out about his current work, his come up in the game and more. Check out the interview below.
What made you want to start customizing sneakers?
I started customizing sneakers for fun and curiosity, but also because I wanted to create sneakers that no one else had.
What was the first sneaker you customized and at what age?
Well, I was drawing on my sneakers since I was very little. Also, I would send designs to Nike when I was as young, probably at the age of 4, so the design bug was in me. The first pair I restored was the Shaqnosis sneaker in 1996. I beat them up quick and made a point to restore the cracking on the midsoles when I was 11. As far as custom work, it was on a pair of Air Force 1 mids from a thrift store.
How long does it usually take you to make a sneaker?
Usually a pair will take a day or two to complete.
What pair of sneakers has taken you the longest to customize?
The Skunk-inspired shoes took a long time, but then again the pair I did for LeBron had a lot of variations. I went back and forth painting and stripping it over and over again. Finally the project was done, and they came out great!
What celebrities have you customized sneakers for?
I’ve done work for Ronnie Fieg, Juwan Howard, LeBron James, Wale, Twista, Yonder Alonso, just to name a few. I have stuff in the works with Pharrell and Kawhi Leonard as well. Not to mention collaborations with Nicekicks.com and more recently Wild Cherry Pepsi.
A lot of customizers are known for a signature style or material they use. What do you think you’re mostly known for in the world of sneaker customizers?
I think I’m most known for detail work in colorway flip. I take certain special shoes and put that colorway or inspiration on to other models of shoes, basically make them look factory. I guess the first time I did that was with the Kobe Grinch. I put the same colorway on an Air Max 90, burning the print into the materials and duplicating the colors. I translated them tastefully to the 90 platform and ended up calling them the “Grinchfrareds.”
What’s the price range for your work?
Price range for work varies but usually starts around $400 and can go up to $1,500 or more.
What is your favorite shoe of all time?
My favorite shoe of all time is the Atlantic Blue Penny 2. I had two pairs when I was kid in 1996. I was 11 years old with a size 11 foot.
Out of all the sneakers you’ve customized, which one has been your favorite?
My favorite shoe I’ve customized would have to be an Air 180 that I did for our event here in San Antonio. It was raffled off at the event. Basically I took the inspiration from the Turtle x Fukijama Air Force 1 in the Entourage show and combined it with San Antonio specifics. The pair came out really nice. White, gold and black throughout, custom wooden box. It was insane. Would love to get that shoe back. [Laughs]
What shoe was the first to get you recognized in the sneaker community?
First shoe to get me recognized in the sneaker community may have been the “Grinchfrared.” Even the pairs I did before that I would post to Niketalk forums and they would get a lot of love. But I guess the biggest one was the pair I did for LeBron. He made an IG post with them and everything. The craziest part is that he wore them to media day 2013 with the Heat and he ended up wearing my shoes on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids…pretty cool!
Are you working on any sneakers at the time for any celebrities?
I am working on some stuff for Wale at the moment. He is a great dude. He is really interested in supporting the artists out there and is super down to earth. I’m very happy to be working with him. I also have some stuff with Jon Buscemi in the works. Super stoked on this just because I look up to him as one of the best designers in the footwear industry, so to be designing stuff for him is a dream. Plus he has the sickest beard in the industry!
Since we are XXL, give me three of your favorite rappers of all time.
Ahh, I knew this was going to come up. [Laughs] I would have to say my three favorites of all time would be Nas, Raekwon and Phife Dawg. But I have to elaborate and let you know I’m a huge fan of Wu-Tang, Camp Lo, Jay Z, Kanye, Q-Tip, etc. I’m just glad you didn’t ask who I didn’t like. [Laughs]